School Choice & Charters

Bill Would Alter Hurricane Aid for Private Schools

By Alyson Klein — May 16, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A Senate-approved measure that includes new funding for districts educating students displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita would change the controversial mechanism under which private schools receive some of those funds.

The bill, which would provide $350 million to educate students who remain displaced next school year, is part of a broader, $109 billion emergency-spending bill to finance the war in Iraq and Gulf Coast hurricane recovery that passed the Senate 78-20 on May 4.

Under the pending legislation, private schools that have taken in hurricane evacuees would still be able to get federal reimbursement, but under a system different from the one prescribed in the Hurricane Education Recovery Act, signed by President Bush last December. (“Senate Backs Additional Hurricane Aid for Schools,” May 10, 2006.)

That law authorized $645 million in “impact aid” to cover the costs of educating displaced students, including $6,000 for each general education student and $7,500 for each student in special education. State officials currently estimate that the amount will be closer to $4,000 per student.

The law calls for money for displaced students in private schools to be distributed on a per-pupil basis from the states and school districts directly to the schools. The private schools are getting about $4,000 per displaced student this year, just as public schools are.

When the hurricane law was passed, some lawmakers, including Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and the National Education Association, among other groups, decried the private school provisions as amounting to a national voucher program.

In response to such concerns, the money added by the Senate for next school year would go to districts. Private schools, instead of receiving a set per-pupil amount, would be reimbursed for services or supplies they actually provided to their hurricane-displaced students.

Some private school advocates are worried that the proposed system might not cover all of their expenses or could prove too bureaucratic, delaying needed dollars.

“We have a lot of questions about whether this is going to work well,” said the Rev. William F. Davis, the deputy secretary for schools at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

One Year Only

Ryan Taylor, a spokesman for Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, who was instrumental in drafting the new language, said it was never the senator’s intention to renew the contentious funding mechanism in the original law.

“The funding commitment to the schools that took in displaced students was a one-time, temporary payment in light of the unprecedented disaster,” Mr. Taylor said. “In crafting this agreement, it was essential that this funding be limited to one year, so that it would not become a voucher.”

The change “will ensure that schools that take in displaced students are compensated, without creating a voucher system,” he said.

Reg Weaver, the president of the NEA, praised the Senate for revising the program.

“Some lawmakers took advantage of the disaster caused by the hurricanes to push their own political agenda,” Mr. Weaver said in a statement. “The federal voucher program offered aid to students with one hand, and took money from underfunded public schools with the other.”

The Senate bill must still be reconciled in a conference committee with the House version of the supplemental-spending measure for the war and hurricane recovery, which does not contain any new impact-aid money. House members championing the funding say that it may be difficult to persuade budget-conscious lawmakers to approve extending the impact-aid program.


Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum What Will It Take for Schools to Get Better?
Find out what educators and leaders can do to incite lasting and productive change that will make a difference in the lives of students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Biden Administration Tightens Rules on Charter School Funding Program
The U.S. Department of Education responded to over 25,000 public comments in making its final revision of charter school funding rules.
7 min read
Students in Monica Farren’s 6th grade English class read outside during a poetry exercise at Albert Einstein Academy Charter Middle School in San Diego.
Students in a 6th grade English class read outside during a poetry exercise at Albert Einstein Academy Charter Middle School in San Diego. The U.S. Department of Education released final rules for the Charter School Program, a federal grant that provides money to schools in their first three years of operation.
Sandy Huffaker for Education Week
School Choice & Charters Opinion The Biden Administration Is Right: Charters Need to Be More Accountable
The proposed changes to the federal Charter School Program are just common sense, write Jitu Brown and Randi Weingarten.
Jitu Brown & Randi Weingarten
3 min read
Illustration of students and teachers holding puzzle pieces.
<b>F. Sheehan/Education Week and iStock/Getty</b>
School Choice & Charters What's Behind the Fight Over the Biden Administration's Stance on Charter School Funding
Proposed new rules for federal charter school funding have drawn the ire of many in the charter school community.
8 min read
Publish Charter school parents stage a counter protest as thousands of public school teachers, administrators and supports march through the streets of Sacramento during a protest held at the California State Capitol urging state legislators to provide more funding for public schools in Sacramento, Calif., on May 22, 2019.
Publish Charter school parents stage a counter protest during a march in Sacramento, Calif., that advocated for more funding for public schools in 2019.
Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP
School Choice & Charters Opinion Families May Like Their School But Want More Options. That’s Where Course Choice Comes In
Educational choices have grown inside each school as a result of the pandemic. Families should take advantage of this.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty